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Do NOT Make These Mistakes at Your Next Fundraising Event!

Want to totally ruin your well-planned fundraising event? Avoid these mistakes!whoops-

I had so much fun seeking out stories of event disasters. You’ll laugh when you read these, but remember, LEARN from them too.

Don’t let these true disaster stories happen to you. (And add your own story at the bottom in a comment!)

1. When the honoree got totally out of control

Here’s one about the speaker gone wild:

The hospital was honoring a long-serving doctor at gala. We had set him up for his comments to be 2 minutes max.

But when he came to the podium, what did he do?  He pulled out three pages of a typed speech and proceeded to laboriously READ the entire thing.

We almost fainted when we saw him pull out the 3-page paper. You could have heard us gasp in the back!

 2. When the Emcee decided to give her own (unscripted) speech

Ok why do we have a Master or Mistress of Ceremonies? Or an Emcee? It is for one reason only – to keep the speakers in line and gently shepherd them off stage if they get long-winded.

We had a local TV anchor as our Emcee, thinking she would be perfect. But SHE decided to give a speech herself about the wonderful nonprofit. So the overly long program started off already behind schedule . . . and the program dragged on and on and on, and on and on.

A few days after the event, I ran into someone I had met there.  And she said, “Never again will I go to anything that organization puts on.” :((

Your emcee is supposed to keep speakers in line - not give her own speech.

Your emcee is supposed to keep speakers in line – not give her own speech.

3. When there was food poisoning

Shanon Doolittle, who’ll be speaking in our Highly Profitable Fundraising Events series next week (her webinar is How to Secure High-Dollar Sponsorships For Your Fundraising Event), shared this disaster:

It was a summer cocktail party with an ask. The young event planner tried to save money by picking an unknown catering company.

Bad decision.

Over two dozen people reported some type of foodborne related illness to the organization that week—and it was a crisis management nightmare.

Needless to say, that event did not come back the following year.

I should mention this was a healthcare organization too. How’s that for irony?

4. The auction organizer passed away (!),  and no one knew till way too late

Joe Garecht, also a speaker in our Highly Profitable Fundraising Events webinars next week, shared this TRUE story.  (Joe will be showing us How to Supercharge our Volunteer Committee and Sell-Out our Next Event)

Joe received a frantic phone call from the Executive Director 10 days for their big annual silent auction gala. They had always hired an outside consultant to handle the entire silent auction, which raised about $50k each year.

The ED was frantic because she had just found out that their consultant had died! (gasp). No one at the organization knew the consultant had been so very ill, and that she had not done anything to prepare for the event.

The staff only found out when they visited her family to pay their respects, and inquired about the silent auction items that the consultant normally kept in her basement. And, well . . .  there was nothing in the basement.

Whoops. And alas for everyone.

5. When the comedian makes fun of the wrong people!

john dawe

Fundraiser and social media expert John Dawe shares his event blooper!

This one is from smart consultant and social media expert John W. Dawe.

It was an event for the Domestic Violence Center put on for our local comedy club as a benefit. The comedian was not sensitive to abused women issues and the jokes were not appropriate! Whoops!

And this reminds me of my own fundraiser for the Women’s Political Caucus at the Raleigh Comedy Club.

I was co-chair of the event, and we had every important politician in Raleigh in that place.

The female comic was trash mouth with gross female anatomy jokes. People walked out.

I’m still living THAT one down!! Triple whoops!

6. When the auctioneer kept getting the name of the organization wrong

Shanon Doolittle shared this blooper too:

She said she’d never forget the time their auctioneer insisted on calling her organization by the wrong name. I can’t imagine anything more infuriating.

Shanon says he sure didn’t get full payment for that gig!

7.  When “Vegas Night” flopped

Fundraising expert Tammy L. Zonker shared her own disaster:

The addiction recovery organization decided to stage a huge fundraising event. But the theme they decided on was “Vegas Night.”

Ouch. How awkward it was when they realized their theme was not very “mission-centric!”

Highly Profitable Fundraising Events

So when you plan your next event, don’t make these mistakes. And DO try to make as much money as possible!

If you want to max out your profit – and your fun – from your next event, don’t miss our webinar series next week.

  • how to nail big money sponsorships,
  • how to sell out the room and all your tickets,
  • how to stage a high profit auction and
  • how to max out your ROI.

If you are having an event any time in 2014 or 15 – bring your volunteers and listen in. Even if you can’t attend live, you will get all the recordings plus a written transcript of each class.

If you think this will help you, click here and register now and be sure to join us!

*** IMPORTANT: If you’re a member of the INSIDERS club, these webinars are yours for no cost. (Info about INSIDERS membership here.)

What are YOUR biggest event bloopers?

Pleeeeze – leave a comment and share your “Whoops”!

Let’s have a laugh and have some fun. And let’s be sure NOT to do any of this stuff!

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  • Karen Martin

    Witnessed: Inebriated local anchor-emcee; car stolen with auction items “safely” in trunk; valet stand dropped & mixed up keys; 2 bid sheets for same item; lawyer won car & left dealership, refusing to pay tax, title & license. Mine: Ticket pulled of cash donor “Mike P. Murphy” (50+ in TX) without contact info. Searched online, confirmed status as hospital patron-donor before saying “You won the SUV!”

  • Richard Freedlund

    Director for one of the organization’s senior’s programs was supposed to give two minute speech about the positive effects of the program and instead went on a tearful jag about one of the clients lonely death in their apartment. The joyful and happy mood of the event turned into a somber room full of depressed people.

  • gailperry

    Gah, I have witnessed the “killjoy” speaker more than once. Whew. What a shame. Keeping speakers on script is SUCH a challenge!

  • Katie Early

    Our Anniversary gala had a great list of RSVPs and we were thrilled. An hour before the event was scheduled to begin tornado warnings were issued and a torrential downpour began. The venue lost electricity and had to complete the catering on small hotplates run off the generator. Half of our expected guests didn’t make it.
    However, the planning team and venue personnel were undaunted in the face of these unexpected challenges!
    Happily, two minutes before the emcee stepped onto the stage intending to project like never before, power was restored. The program went off with no other hitches. While it wasn’t the most “successful” gala ever, those who did attend felt a real sense of connection to one another. So I guess this is a bad case/good case example!

  • Nancy

    The Chamber of Commerce President, and I, the Exec. Dir. of the Downtown Development Authority, held a Gala inviting everyone in town to view a documentary of a Prohibition era film about a gang which used our city during that time. Dinner was across the street from the theatre in a package using the two venues. There were to be two showings in one night. The documentary included people from our city as actors, including the Chief of Public Safety. The C of C Pres. and I waited in the restaurant during the first viewing. After a while people found us and demanded a refund of their money. We were unaware there were explicit sex scenes included in the film . It took a couple of years for us to live that fiasco down.

  • Kris

    Inebriated board member gets into fist fight with another guest on the dance floor!

  • Lucy

    1). Inebriated donor of a fur coat got on stage and berated guests when they were not bidding “high enough” on the coat. She called them all “ingrates” and had to be physically removed from the stage. 2). Silent auction volunteer wrote a bid number on a highly sought after item AFTER the bidding was closed. When the true winner came to the check out to pay and collect his $2K sports tickets – they had already been given out to the fake winner.

  • gailperry

    Oh my goodness!!!!!!

  • gailperry

    What a blooper! I can’t imagine anything worse!

  • gailperry

    OMG – explicit sex scenes! that’s a new one on me!

  • Lyn

    Sold a ceramic, one of a kind piece of art by the late John Denver in an auction for $7,000 and after the bidding, a waiter accidentally knocked it off the table and shattered it into three pieces. The next day I called the donor and let her know that of course she did not have to purchase it. She purchased is anyway and had it framed into an even finer piece of art. It was special as she knew John Denver personally and she said the fractured but beautiful art represented his essence all the more.

  • Lyn

    Had an ask event with about 300 people and moments prior to my on-strage ask, my team discovered the remit device was not included in the donor packets at the tables. My team worked with the hotel to create new slips and we cut it very close. While I was giving the on-stage appeal the team was delivering the freshly copied remits to all the tables. This was a A team that got it done!

  • gailperry

    Wow, now that is a disaster that turned out positive for all involved! But I can’t image how you felt when the it broke on the floor!!!!

  • gailperry

    OMG I bet there was serious panic there! : )

  • gailperry

    Wow Katie, I can’t imagine! whew!

  • H

    Same thing happened to our org with the silent auction item. The volunteer (and partial founder of the event!) wrote his bid number after the auction ended. The volunteer and the actual auction attendee (who thought they won) were in each others face and yelling loudly. It was so embarrassing! Ugh!